The figurative language of writer Samantha Harvey

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors from writer Samantha Harvey….

There is a pop star named Samantha Harvey but the person I’m talking about today is very fine writer by the same name.

Based in the U.K., Samantha Harvey, the writer, is the author of four novels and has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Guardian First Book Award, the Walter Scott Prize and the James Tait Black Prize. She has also been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Baileys Prize, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize and the HWA Gold Crown Award.

Her most recent book, The Shapeless Unease, however, is not a novel. It’s a memoir about her insomnia. (The book was a gift to me from a friend who knew about my own difficulties with sleep.)

I was blown away by Harvey’s use of figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • Nowadays she is shocked by the fraudulence of words Every word claims an authority and every word craves to be believed, and we read others’ words and we find something to relate to solace in a shared experience.
  • A word can be a little piece of inheritance It can be spent without ever having been earned.
  • I don’t look at a clock in the night but I’ve spent so many nights awake that I usually know the time within around ten or twenty minutes; I know the texture of the passing hours and the texture of my thoughts as the night abrades them.
  • When I don’t sleep, it’s not that I feel tired so much as assaulted.
  • At the doctor’s I sit like a child, with my hands in a loose prayer between my thighs, and my ankles crossed.
  • What pea disrupts your sleep, princess? A passing Audi?
  • All the pain had suddenly gone and my body was dense but light, like an air-filled lung, and when I moved my arm to look at my hand I was it with complete equanimity.
  • How can I describe this feeling I have when I lie down to sleep and it’s as if I’m falling from a fifty-storey building, and there’s nobody, nothing, to catch me?
  • Never managed to get a mobile phone, maybe will one day when everyone else has progressed to telepathy.
  • I’m angry that the week we gained Donald Trump as a world leader we lost Leonard Cohen, in some deal that even the Devil must have flinched at.
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